Lee Munroe offers an alternative to the “sign-up first” approach.
Imagine if you walked up to a clothes store you had never been in before and you were only able to see the outside. In the window, instead of clothes they have icons with brief descriptions of the clothes. Then if you want to enter to look at the clothes or try them on the shop asks you for your personal details. A photo of yourself. Where you live. Then they ask you for 5 of your friend’s emails so you can invite them to the shop (that you still haven’t entered and don’t know if it’s any good yet). You eventually get in and realize it’s not what you wanted. Afterwards you start receiving letters from them in the mail every day until you ask them to stop.
He describes Luke Wroblewski’s idea of gradual engagement, an alternative to that ordeal, as something like this: Hey, here’s a product we made, give it a try. If you like it, you should sign up so you get even more value.